A ceasefire between U.S.-backed rebels and Russian-backed Syrian forces went into effect in Syria on Feb. 27 — the first major respite in five years of warfare that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. The volunteer rescuers from the Syrian White Helmets group reported the ceasefire “holding in the main.”
“Today very quiet,” the group tweeted. “Long may it last.”
But the ceasefire doesn’t apply to Islamic State, of course — nor to Syrian, Russian, American and rebel attacks on the militant group. The Pentagon reported that its allies in the “New Syrian Forces” repulsed Islamic State attacks along the Mar’a Line in northern Syria while U.S.-vetted rebels in the Syrian Democratic Forces group gained control of the Tishreen Dam east of Aleppo as well as Shaddadi, a strategic logistical hub for militants in the northeastern part of the country.
Islamic State also attacked Kurdish SDF forces holding Tel Abyad, a Syrian town on the Turkish frontier that was a key border crossing for the militant group before the Kurds liberated it in July 2015. U.S. Air Force A-10 attack jets flying from Incirlik air base in Turkey strafed the militants, apparently drawing heavy ground fire. The distinctive sound of the A-10s’ powerful 30-millimeter cannons — and the chatter of small-caliber guns presumably firing back — is audible in the video below.
A U.S. official and an official from the Iraqi government told the AP that talks about keeping U.S. troops in Iraq were ongoing.
The U.S. official emphasized that discussions were in early stages and that “nothing has been finalized.” Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
In his statement, Haider al-Abadi emphasized that there are no foreign combat troops on Iraqi soil and that any American troops who stay on once IS militants are defeated will be advisers working to train Iraq’s security forces to maintain “full readiness” for any “future security challenges.”
While some U.S. forces are carrying out combat operations with Iraqi forces on and beyond front lines in the fight against IS, al-Abadi has maintained that the forces are acting only as advisers, apparently to get around a required parliamentary approval for their presence.
Any forces who remained would continue to be designated as advisers for the same reason, the Iraqi government official had told the AP.
Regardless of how the troops are designated, talks about maintaining American forces in Iraq point to a consensus by both governments that a longer-term U.S. presence in Iraq is needed to ensure that an insurgency does not bubble up again once IS militants are driven out — a contrast to the full U.S. withdrawal in 2011.
Currently, the Pentagon has close to 7,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, many not publicly acknowledged because they are on temporary duty or under specific personnel rules. At the height of the surge of U.S. forces in 2007, there were about 170,000 American troops in the country. The numbers were wound down eventually to 40,000, before the complete withdrawal in 2011.
The U.S. intervention against the Islamic State group, launched in 2014, was originally cast as an operation that would largely be fought from the skies with a minimal footprint on Iraqi soil. Nevertheless, that footprint has since expanded, given the Iraqi forces’ need for support.
Carpenter, who received the Medal of Honor last year for jumping on a grenade to save his friend’s life during the battle, told his fellow Marines that “it’s your medal” at a reunion on the five-year anniversary of Operation Moshtarak last week at the National Museum of the Marine Corps.
“With this short amount of time I have to speak to you tonight, I couldn’t possibly sum up the historical battle of Marjah,” Carpenter said in his speech, according to a transcription from Hope Hodge Seck of Marine Corps Times. “I am comforted, though, by the fact that the men in this room don’t need a summary because you were right there beside me. You felt the incredible heat of a 100 percent humidity day and the cool waters of a muddy canal. You felt the weight of 100 pounds of gear, ammo and water at your back, the weight of knowing as Marines we are and forever will be the first line of defense for our loved ones, our nation and above all, freedom.”
The Battle of Marjah involved 15,000 American, Afghan, Canadian, British, and French troops in the largest joint operation up to that point in the Afghan war. The effort to wrestle the key town of Marjah from the Taliban took NATO forces nearly 10 months, according to ABC News.
“I stand here today extremely proud of you all. I’m proud of the job you did in the face of what most cannot even fathom. I am more than honored to call you friends, fellow Marines and brothers,” Carpenter said. “You stand as an example for others and for what’s best for not only our nation but the rest of the world.”
In his speech, Carpenter did not reference his incredible example from Nov. 21, 2010, when he jumped on a grenade while providing rooftop security at a small outpost. “I only remember a few moments after I got hit,” Carpenter told me previously when I interviewed him for Business Insider. “But nothing before.”
He was severely wounded — as was his friend Lance Cpl. Nick Eufrazio — but both survived. While Carpenter lost his right eye and took shrapnel throughout his face and lower body, his recovery has been nothing short of remarkable.
Carpenter continued (via Marine Times):
Be proud of who you are. Be proud of what you did in that country. You are alive today and have been blessed with this opportunity of life. Don’t waste it. Live a life worth living, full of meaning and purpose, and one that will make the fallen who are looking down on us proud.
Marines, I’m proud to have worn the same uniform as you.
Never forget that when no one else would raise their right hand, you did. You sacrificed and became part of our nation’s history and our Marine Corps legacy for taking part in the historical battleground of Marjah. Thank you so much. I really do appreciate it.
More than seven decades after the start of World War II, Germany and Japan have begun to rearm.
These days, the countries are two of America’s closest allies. But they can’t singlehandedly project military power outside of their own borders.
In fact, the building of an offensive army is prohibited by the post-WWII constitutions of both Germany and Japan. And when the Cold War ended, it took a lot of the emphasis on building a strong military away from those vanquished nations.
There just wasn’t an enemy to fight that rivaled the threat posed by the Soviet Union.
The rise of transnational terrorism sparked renewed efforts in developing Germany and Japan’s defense capabilities. The two countries’ defensive posture was designed around limited self-defense capabilities.
The U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 after the terror attacks on Sept. 11 was the first time NATO allies rallied and mobilized for mutual offensive action. Now, the threat of ISIS has made the need for an expanded military capacity even more pressing.
In short, China has turned their coast guard into a sort of paramilitary force, the largest of it’s kind in the world. In some cases, China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) vessels have simply been painted white and repurposed for maritime “law enforcement.”
Sometimes, the .50 caliber machine guns still hang over the sides of vessels once used for war and now used to intimidate neighboring nations.
But unlike military disputes, where internationally agreed-upon accords regulate standard operating procedures, these coast guard ships fall in a legal gray zone that China has come to exploit.
“What we have is a situation in East Asia where China in particular is not using naval vessels to intimidate, not using [traditional] force, but they’re taking actions that are below that line of triggering any kind of military confrontation, and yet intimidating other actors,” Bonnie Glasser, an expert on security in the Pacific from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Business Insider in a phone interview.
Glasser, who headed up the report on China’s coast guard, compiled 45 incidents in the South China Sea and found China’s coast guard involvement in two thirds of them.
But according to Glasser, “what we have been able to compile is just a fraction of the number of incidents in the South China Sea,” where China’s larger ships have repeatedly rammed, harassed, and used water cannons on fishing vessels from the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and others.
“In my conversations in the Philippines — Chinese ramming of other ships is considered to be part of their acceptable rules of engagement. That’s just what they do,” said Glasser.
According to Glasser, the legal framework marks a step in the right direction, but does nothing to stop the harassing actions of China’s coast guard, which operates as a navy in all but name. What’s more, the majority of signatories to the recent ASEAN CUES agreement had already signed a similar agreement in April 2014, rendering the agreement even more empty.
“China’s ASEAN CUES agreement is not new, and was already agreed upon. [Chinese state media] portrayed it as some breakthrough… Everyone is applauding, and it’s nice to have, but it doesn’t address the problem,” said Glasser. The real problem, of course, is that no meaningful laws regulate their paramilitary coast guard.
A boarding team from the People’s Liberation Army (Navy) Haikou makes way toward the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Waesche July, 16, 2014, during a Maritime Interdiction Operations Exercise as part of Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise 2014. | U.S Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Manda M. Emery
“China is building very large coast guard vessels,” and lots of them in a “quantity as well as quality” approach, said Glasser. The sheer size of the ships, usually weighing more than 1,000 tons, as well as the way they’re armed, make other nation’s law enforcement craft “pale in comparison.”
Essentially, the Chinese bully civilian craft with hulking boats that intimidate on sight. Only Japan even comes close to having the capability to defend itself, with 105,000 total tonnage of coast guard ships to China’s 190,000. But Glasser says that actual military capability should come second to infrastructure, in the form of internationally agreed-upon law.
“Putting in place acceptable procedures of behavior and other confidence building measures is the way to go, rather than everyone having the ships the size of China’s,” said Glasser, nodding to the potential arms race that could result from China’s unilateral military buildup.
“Many different risks are posed if China goes ahead and develops the Scarborough Shoal… it would undermine US credibility, cause the Chinese to continue to test the US, and push forward a greater agenda of seeking control of the air and sea space,” Glasser said.
Furthermore, China undermining the US would cause “enormous anxiety in the region, with the US seen as weakening in it’s ability and will,” Glasser said.
“Reverberating effects, as well as security threats eventually posed by China having capability near main bases (the Subic Bay) would be a threat to the Philippines and the US.”
So for now, China has found a loophole in international law that allows its paramilitary “second navy” of a coast guard to muscle smaller nations out of their rightful claims. China has shown a persistent will to militarize and enforce its claims in the South China Sea. Unless the US, and its allies in the Pacific, can get China to agree to a legal framework, Beijing appears ready to continue pushing its claims by force.
There is a perceived weakness in the way international law is enforced at sea, and China is exploiting it handily. As Donald Rumsfeld said, “weakness is provocative.”
Now, you can bring that magic to bedtime. Whether it’s for you, your little one, a grandchild or just that Disney lover in your life, calling for a bedtime message is easy, fun, and best of all, it’s free.
The author’s daughter sound asleep at Disney. Photo/Tessa Robinson
For a limited time (until April 30), ShopDisney.com is offering bedtime messages from some of our favorite Disney characters. Callers can choose a special goodnight greeting from Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy or Goofy. The messages are so endearing, tucking your little one in for the night and telling them to have sweet dreams.
Even though spring break trips are canceled and the legendary theme parks have shut down all over the world in response to COVID-19, we all could use a little Disney magic.
When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are Anything your heart desires will come to you If your heart is in your dream, no request is too extreme When you wish upon a star as dreamers do.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
Senior Airman Jordan Webber, a KC-135 Stratotanker boom operator from MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., checks gear is where it needs to be shortly before a refueling mission at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., July 18, 2015, during exercise Red Flag 16-3. The exercise is one of four Red Flag exercises at Nellis AFB, with this iteration focusing on multi-domain operations in air, space and cyberspace.
An HH-60 Pave Hawk returns from an exercise mission July 12, 2016, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., as part of Red Flag 16-3. The exercise is one of four Red Flags at Nellis AFB, with this iteration focusing on air, space and cyberspace operations.
Soldiers assigned to the Massachusetts National Guard — The Nation’s First, use smoke to conceal their movement during an exercise at theJoint Readiness Training Center, Operations Group,Fort Polk, Louisiana, July 15, 2016.
Soldiers, assigned to 25th Infantry Division, load an AH-64 Apache helicopter onto a United States Air Force C-17 Globemaster during an emergency deployment readiness exercise as part of exercise Arctic Anvil at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, July 21, 2016. The exercise was designed to test the readiness of U.S. Army Alaska and their ability to quickly prepare vital air assets for deployment. As emergent demands continue to increase, Army readiness continues to be the Army’s number one priority.
SOUTH CHINA SEA (July 21, 2016) Sailors take a lunch break from the high operational tempo of the Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). U.S. Navy Aircraft carriers, like Reagan, serve up to 18,150 meals a day. Ronald Reagan, the Carrier Strike Group Five (CSG 5) flagship, is on patrol in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.
PACIFIC OCEAN (July 17, 2016) – Marines assigned to the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) board an MV-22 Osprey, assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 163 (Reinforced) on the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8). Makin Island is conducting integrated training with Amphibious Squadron Five and the 11th MEU off the coast of southern California in preparation for an upcoming deployment.
A Candidate with Alpha Company, Officer Candidate School conducts the Combat Course at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., June 20, 2016. The mission of OCS is to educate and train officer candidates in order to evaluate and screen individuals for qualities required for commissioning as a Marine Corps officer.
Marines assigned to Maritime Raid Force, 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, conduct a fast rope training exercise during a deployment on the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD-1) July 5, 2016. 22nd MEU is conducting Naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe.
The cutter and crew returned to their homeport in Virginia Beach earlier this week after a 55-day deployment through the Eastern Pacific Ocean in support of the Coast Guard’s Western Hemisphere Strategy.
The newest Fast Response Cutter Joseph Tezanos, scheduled to be commissioned in August, took a test run off the coast of Key West, Florida, today. The cutter was named after a WWII hero who became the first Hispanic American to complete the service’s Reserve Officer Training Program.
Four crashed aircrew members scatter into knee-high desert brush searching for a spot to blend-in with the environment. There’s nothing but a dying, desolate landscape as far as the eye can see. And yet, they need to disappear. These aircrew are being hunted.
Rustling through the brush downwind of the pilots is a man and his dog.
The duo presses on with the hunt, despite being at a disadvantage. The dog puts his nose to the air and takes in short, quick breaths, but an unrelenting mist keeps the aircrew’s scents from being carried by the wind. They traverse miles of mud and brush, stopping every-so-often to stare out into the seemingly endless tan and brown canvas laid out before them.
No matter how this ordeal ends, both sides will be better for it.
Staff Sgt. Antonio Padilla, 336th Security Forces Squadron military working dog trainer, and Alf, 366th SFS military working dog, acting as opposition forces, hunt down pilots to enhance the combat readiness of both parties during a search and rescue operation as part of a Gunfighter Flag exercise at Saylor Creek Range Complex, Idaho.
Staff Sgt. Antonio Padilla, 366th Security Forces Squadron military working dog trainer, gives Alf, 366th SFS military working dog, a water break while acting as opposition forces to hunt down “crashed” pilots during a combat search and rescue exercise April 2, 2019, at Saylor Creek Range near Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman First Class Andrew Kobialka)
Gunfighter Flag concentrates on preparing airmen to be ready to overcome obstacles that may appear in a deployed environment. Padilla plays a unique role in that preparation.
“When we are at the range, scouting for pilots, we are not only testing the survival skills of our pilots, but also honing the capabilities and teamwork between MWDs and their trainers,” Padilla said.
To effectively enhance readiness this training has to be exactly like the real deal.
“Finding a way to simulate stress is important,” said Staff Sgt. David H. Chorpening, 366th Operation Support Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of survival, evasion, resistance, escape operations.
Screams riddled with anguish and anxiety filled the air as each aircrew member suffered a bite from Alf.
U.S. Air Force Alf, 366th Security Forces Squadron military working dog, acts as opposition forces and hunts down “crashed” pilots during a combat search and rescue exercise April 2, 2019 at Saylor Creek Range near Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman First Class Andrew Kobialka)
The aircrew was protected by a bite-suit, but the stress they experienced was almost tangible, and not easily forgotten.
Incorporating stress into these scenarios helps ingrain the survival process and procedures into the minds of airmen to ensure they will be able to act on it in the field, Chorpening said.
Padilla and Alf bring a dose of stressful realism to the exercise through Alf’s vicious bite and undying loyalty that, consequently, often inflicts fear into whoever they pursue.
However, to be frightening is one thing, to be ready for deployment is another. That requires MWDs to be well-trained, obedient and skilled. Developing that in a MWD, like Alf, takes time and dedicated trainers.
Padilla said that there is a process of building rapport with new dogs, solidifying their commands, and exposing them to realistic situations like bite-work and detection that has to take place before they are cleared for deployment.
Ultimately, MWDs are tested in exercises like scouting for aircrew members in a vast environment with endless hiding places. This serves as a great preparation tool for MWDs and their trainers.
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Antonio Padilla, 366th Security Forces Squadron military working dog trainer, and Alf, 366th SFS military working dog, act as opposition forces and hunt down “crashed” pilots during a combat search and rescue exercise April 2, 2019 at Saylor Creek Range near Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman First Class Andrew Kobialka)
As an MWD and its trainer work together, they understand each other better and are able to work cohesively, Padilla said. “On a scout, the dog leads the way, but we are a team,” Padilla said. “Alf’s senses are a lot better than a human’s. Alf will often see, hear or smell a potential target before I do. Then I am able to decipher whether or not it is what we are looking for or if we should move on.”
It is a rigorous journey to become a MWD but in the end they are able to save lives in real-world situations and through readiness exercises like Gunfighter Flag.
“This training is so beneficial for trainers and their dogs to gain the experience of realistic training,” Padilla said. “What is even better is the dualistic nature of the exercise that enables pilots to improve their survival and evasion tactics simultaneously.”
The search and rescue exercise at Saylor Creek Range Complex may be a single piece of Gunfighter Flag, but is vital nonetheless because of the life saving potential it holds. Padilla and Alf continue to diligently work towards enhancing the readiness of themselves and the aircrew they hunt.
The US and Russia, the world’s two most powerful militaries and biggest nuclear powers, appear set to clash over a suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria, with President Donald Trump tweeting on April 11, 2018, for Russia to “get ready” for a US missile strike.
“Russia vows to shoot down any, and all missiles fired at Syria,” Trump tweeted. “Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart!’ You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!”
The first part of the tweet referred to comments by a Russian diplomat threatening a counterresponse to any US military action against the Syrian government, which the US and local aid groups have accused of carrying out several chemical weapons attacks on its own people.
According to Reuters, Russia’s ambassador to Lebanon, Alexander Zasypkin, told the militant group Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV that, “If there is a strike by the Americans,” then “the missiles will be downed and even the sources from which the missiles were fired.”
Trump canceled a trip to South America over the latest suspected chemical attack, which killed dozens on April 7, 2018, and is instead consulting with John Bolton, his new ultra-hawkish national security adviser. Trump and France have promised a strong joint response in the coming days.
The president and his inner circle are reportedly considering a much larger strike on Syria than the one that took place almost exactly a year ago, on April 7, 2017, in which 59 US sea-based cruise missiles briefly disabled an air base suspected of playing a role in a chemical attack.
This time, Trump has French President Emmanuel Macron in his corner— but also acute threats of escalation from Syria’s most powerful ally, Russia.
“The threats you are proffering that you’re stating vis-à-vis Syria should make us seriously worried, all of us, because we could find ourselves on the threshold of some very sad and serious events,” Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Vassily Nebenzia, warned his US counterpart, Nikki Haley, in a heated clash at the UN.
The US wants a massive strike, but Russia won’t make it easy
Syrian government forces present a more difficult target than most recent US foes. Unlike Islamic State fighters or Taliban militants, the Syrian government is backed by heavy Russian air defenses. Experts on these defenses have told Business Insider the US would struggle to overcome them, even with its arsenal of stealth jets.
It was US Navy ships that fired the missiles in the April 7, 2017, strike. If Russia were to retaliate against a US Navy ship with its own heavy navy presence in the region, the escalation would most likely resemble war between the two countries.
Vladimir Shamanov, a retired general who heads the defense affairs committee in Russia’s lower house of parliament, would not rule out the use of nuclear weapons in an escalation with the US over Syria, saying only that it was “unlikely,” the Associated Press reports.
The US has destroyer ships in the region, The New York Times reports, as well as heavy airpower at military bases around the region. While Russian air defenses seem credible on paper, they seem to have done nothing to stop repeated Israeli airstrikes all around Syria.
US’s and Russia’s military reputations on the line
(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Hook)
On both the Western and Russian sides of the conflict, credibility is on the line. The leaders of the US and France have explicitly warned against the use of chemical weapons, saying they will respond with force. Russia has acted as a guarantor of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s safety in the face of possible Western intervention but has found itself undermined by several strikes from the US and Israel.
Experts previously told Business Insider that an outright war with the US would call Russian President Vladimir Putin’s bluff and betray his true aim of projecting power at low cost, while destroying much of his military.
Additionally, the Syria government, backed by Russia, has struggled to beat lightly armed rebels who have lived under almost nonstop siege for the past seven years.
For the US and France, failure to meaningfully intervene in the conflict would expose them as powerless against Russia, and unable to abate the suffering in Syria even with strong political will.
For now, the world has gone eerily quiet in anticipation of fighting.
European markets dipped slightly on expectations of military action, and the skies around Syria have gone calm as the pan-European air-traffic control agency Eurocontrol warned airlines about flying in the eastern Mediterranean because of the possibility of an air war in Syria within the next 48 hours.
The Russian Defense Ministry warned the US military on Feb. 1, 2018 to either stop flying near its borders or to “agree on their rules,” according to state-owned media TASS.
“If the realization of this fact by American pilots causes depression and phobias, we recommend that the American side either exclude flying near Russian borders in the future or return to the negotiations table and agree on a set of rules for such flights,” the Russian Defense Ministry also said, according to RT.
US Naval Forces Europe-Africa accused Russia on Jan. 29, 2018 of an unsafe intercept over the Black Sea near Crimea, saying that an Su-27 flew within five feet of a US Navy EP-3 Aries signals reconnaissance aircraft. Video appeared to show the Russian fighter jet noticeably close to the US plane.
“This interaction was determined to be unsafe due to the Su-27 closing to within five feet and crossing directly through the EP-3’s flight path, causing the EP-3 to fly through the Su-27’s jet wash. The duration of the intercept lasted two hours and 40 minutes,” the US Navy said.
The Russian Defense Ministry said that the incident earlier in the week was “absolutely legal and perfectly safe for the American surveillance plane.”
The US has released several videos of the intercept, showing the Su-27 buzzing and hovering near the US spy plane.
Russia said that the incident was an escort — not an intercept.
The Russian Defense Ministry and Russian Embassy in Washington, DC did not respond to Business Insider’s emails asking why such maneuvers were necessary for an escort, and what “agree to their rules” meant.
Moscow also called out the US commander of the 67th Task Force of the 6th Fleet, saying, “We would like to address the commander of the 67th Task Force of the 6th Fleet Bill Ellis with a reminder Crimea is an integral part of Russia,” Tass reported.
The Russian Defense Ministry also claimed that NATO planes have maneuvered in similar ways in the past, but they “cause absolutely no effects on Russian crews.”
US Naval Forces Europe-Africa did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.
The U.S. Air Force announced plans to ramp up its pilot training to produce 1,500 pilots a year by fiscal 2022. Now, Air Education and Training Command (AETC) has divulged preliminary blueprints on how it anticipates accomplishing the task.
Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said before a Senate Armed Services readiness and management support subcommittee hearing Oct. 10, 2018, that the service will increase its current 1,160 pilot training slots to 1,311 in fiscal 2019, aiming for 1,500 every year shortly thereafter.
“AETC has been tasked to produce about 1,500 pilots per year … That number includes active-duty Air Force, Air Force Reserves, Air National Guard and international students,” command spokeswoman Marilyn Holliday told Military.com this in October 2018.
While the undertaking is in its initial stages, the command will use programs such as the experimental Pilot Training Next — paired with Pilot Instructor Training Next — to improve how teachers and incoming students work together.
U.S. Air Force Second Lt. Brett Bultsma, Pilot Training Next student, and Capt. Jeffery Kelley, PTN instructor pilot, prepare for a training flight aboard a T-6 Texan at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in Austin.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Sean M. Worrell)
AETC is also updating its Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) curriculum to streamline how quickly the Air Force can produce new pilots, Holliday said.
“The final touches to the new Undergraduate Pilot Training syllabi were adjudicated and are now in the initial stages of execution,” she said.
Revising pilot training
The curriculum’s redesign gives squadron commanders the ability to refine training to better meet the needs of individual students, AETC said in a recent release.
Previously, students went back and forth between simulators and the flight line. The new syllabus moves “11 simulators that had been previously spread out over a three- to four-month time frame, into a single block of training prior to the first flight in the aircraft,” Holliday said.
It’s also a blended learning model, she said, that incorporates several best practices from “advanced military flight training and civilian flight training.”
Students will cut their training time from 54 to 49 weeks once the changes are fully implemented.
“We are still in the early phase of executing the syllabus redesign, but initial performance from students indicates increased pilot performance,” Holliday said.
Students will advance at their own pace. Previously, they had to wait until the entire class completed stages or assignments before moving on to the next. AETC will now allow for individual students to complete courses faster or slower as needed, officials said.
Holliday said this will not alter the official course length, but the time a given student spends in the course could change. The first UPT students to use the adjusted curriculum will graduate in spring 2019, she said.
Pilot Training Next
Thirteen students graduated from the first, experimental Pilot Training Next (PTN) class in August 2018 after six months of learning to fly in virtual-reality simulators. The program ran 24 weeks and “included 184 academic hours, with approximately 70 to 80 flight hours in the T-6 Texan II, as well as approximately 80 to 90 hours of formal flight training in the simulator,” Holliday said. Students also trained on their own time in the simulators.
“We want to learn as fast as possible,” said 2nd Lt. Christofer Ahn, a student pilot, in an interview before graduating. “Being able to use the simulators is a huge step in allowing us to accelerate through our training.”
U.S. Air Force students and instructor pilots from the Pilot Training Next program fly a T-6 Texan during a training flight at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Sean M. Worrell)
The service recently announced there will be a second class to test Pilot Training Next before the results are briefed to Wilson and Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, who will decide whether the program will be incorporated into formal pilot training. The second class will begin training in January 2019.
Holliday said that lessons learned from PTN have already been incorporated into traditional Undergraduate Pilot Training, as well as Pilot Instructor Training.
Instructors are also refining the ways they connect with students through innovation and simulation training. With a program called Pilot Instructor Next, they are looking for ways to develop what AETC calls the “Mach-21” airman, or the next generation of 21st century pilots.
Lt. Gen. Steven Kwast, the AETC commander, coined the term to describe what the Air Force wants in its new pilots.
“A Mach-21 Air Force essentially is comprised of airmen who learn faster, adapt faster and strategically out-think the enemy, because they are moving at Mach-21 speed,” he said.
To produce such high-quality and sought-after pilots, instructors need to up their game.
“Through Pilot Instructor Training Next, AETC flying squadrons have been equipped with virtual-reality simulators and 360-degree video headsets to integrate into syllabi,” Holliday said. “Since implemented, there have been measurable benefits from the addition of technology, and 10 instructor pilots are slated to graduate from the PIT Next program each month.”
U.S. Air Force Second Lt. Brett Bultsma, Pilot Training Next student, and Capt. Jeffery Kelley, Pilot Training Next instructor pilot, prepare for a training flight aboard a T-6 Texan at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Sean M. Worrell)
Its biggest advantage, AETC says, is the ability to test students in high-stress environments in the safe space of a simulator.
“Virtually, instructors can put students in any situation to determine if they would recognize the danger and whether or not they take the right course of action,” Holliday said. “Students also have the opportunity to take home mobile-video headsets, which connect to the pilot’s smartphone and allow for on-command and on-demand training, which has also been helpful.”
She added, “Incorporating this level of technology and deep-repetition learning allows these students to see the flight environment so many more times than they would have in the past.”
Aircrew Crisis Task Force
AETC is also coordinating with the Aircrew Crisis Task Force — set up in 2016 by the Pentagon — building on its “holistic plan to ensure the Air Force’s pilot requirements are met through retention of currently trained pilots as well as through the production pipeline.”
At the Oct. 10, 2018 hearing, Wilson said the Air Force is placing an emphasis on addressing the national aircrew shortage by focusing on pilot quality of service and quality-of-life issues.
The task force has looked at ways of giving fighter pilots and aircrew the ability to stay in rotations longer at select commands and bases in an effort to create stability for airmen affected by the service’s growing pilot shortage.
“We continue to work with the Aircrew Crisis Task Force to ensure our pilot production planning encompasses an airman from commissioning through training and then to their operational flying units,” Holliday said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
They aren’t the shoot-em-up kind of superheroes, but equally awesome in their own way.
1. Maj. Carol Danvers (Ms. Marvel)
Major Danvers is a trained military intelligence officer and erstwhile spy. She’s one of the most distinguished officers in the superhero universe, a graduate of the Air Force Academy, where Nick Fury recruited her for the CIA. Retiring from the Air Force as a Colonel to be Chief of Security at NASA before becoming half-Kree (a militaristic alien race in the Marvel Universe) and then becoming Captain Marvel after meeting a Kree alien named Mar-Vell, but she acquired superpowers after an explosion merged her DNA with the first Captain Marvel… well, it’s complicated. She is an author and feminist and her powers include flight, enhanced strength and durability, shooing energy bursts from her hands, and being able to verbally judo one Tony Stark.
2. Capt. Hal Jordan (Green Lantern)
He was an elite pilot who joined the Air Force on his 18th birthday and immediately became a test pilot (it doesn’t have to be realistic, it’s a comic, ok?) before joining the Green Lantern Corps. He was also a hot shot fighter pilot who fought aliens as well as North Koreans. He was kicked out after decking his superior officer, who wouldn’t let him take leave.
3. Sam Wilson (Falcon)
Falcon is actually an enlisted airman, not an officer. He’s a former Air Force Pararescue Jumper (PJ), which makes him a great candidate for the superhero’s tendency to jump into the middle of a combat situation to ice evildoers and save lives. Not content with all that, he also counsels veterans with post-traumatic stress issues in his free time.
4. Ben Grimm (The Thing)
Another Air Force test pilot (those guys are pretty ballsy, so it makes sense to turn them into superheroes), Grimm was also a Marine and an astronaut, which is how he became the Thing in the first place. For all the clobberin’ and poor use of the English language depicted in the films, Grimm is clearly the superhero with the most book learnin’ and the most distinguished military career. Ben Grimm’s rock skin gives him super strength, durability, and resistance to extreme temperatures.
5. Lt. Col. James Rhodes (War Machine)
What better Air Force job could there be than to be the USAF Liaison to Genius, Billionaire, Playboy, Philanthropist — and your best friend, Tony Stark. That job is so awesome, it led to him being the only other person on Earth who gets to pilot a suit of armor on the level of Iron Man’s.
6. Travis Morgan (Warlord)
Flying a recon mission over the North Pole led to a plane malfunction and an ejection over what should have been Northern Canada. when Morgan touched down, he found himself in the land of Skartaris, a barbarian world in another dimension, hidden inside the Earth’s core. He defeated an evil magician attempting to conquer Skartaris and became Warlord. He was able to return to Earth on occasion, which makes all of this sound like a deployment to Afghanistan.
The U.S. Navy accepted delivery of two Littoral Combat Ships (LCSs), the future USS Sioux City (LCS 11) and USS Wichita (LCS 13), during a ceremony at the Fincantieri Marinette Marine shipyard on Aug. 22, 2018.
Sioux City and Wichita, respectively, are the 14th and 15th Littoral Combat Ships (LCSs) to be delivered to the Navy and the sixth and seventh of the Freedom variant to join the fleet. These deliveries mark the official transfer of the ships from the shipbuilder, part of a Lockheed Martin-led team, to the U.S. Navy. It is the final milestone prior to commissioning. Both ships will be commissioned in late 2018, Sioux City in Annapolis, Maryland, and Wichita in Jacksonville, Florida.
Regarding the LCS deliveries, Captain Mike Taylor, LCS program manager, said, “The future USS Sioux City is a remarkable ship which will bring tremendous capability to the Fleet. I am excited to join with her crew and celebrate her upcoming commissioning at the home of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis.”
“Today also marks a significant milestone in the life of the future USS Wichita, an exceptional ship which will conduct operations around the globe,” he said. “I look forward to seeing Wichita join her sister ships this winter.”
Capt. Shawn Johnston, commander, LCS Squadron Two, welcomed the ships to the fleet, saying, “The future USS Sioux City is a welcome addition to the East Coast Surface Warfare Division. Both her Blue and Gold crews are ready to put this ship though her paces and prepare the ship to deploy.
An artist rendering of the littoral combat ship USS Sioux City (LCS11).
(U.S. Navy photo illustration by Stan Bailey)
“The future USS Wichita is the first East Coast Mine Warfare Division ship,” he said. “She will have a chance to test some of the latest and greatest mine warfare systems after she completes her remaining combat systems trials.”
Several additional Freedom variant ships are under construction at Fincantieri Marinette Marine. The future USS Billings (LCS 15) is preparing for trials in spring 2019. The future USS Indianapolis (LCS 17) was christened/launched in April 2018. The future USS St. Louis (LCS 19) is scheduled for christening and launch in the fall. The future USS Minneapolis-Saint Paul (LCS 21) is preparing for launch and christening in spring of 2019, while the future USS Cooperstown (LCS 23)’s keel was laid in early August 2018 and is undergoing construction in the shipyard’s erection bays. The future USS Marinette (LCS 25) started fabrication in February 2018, while the future USS Nantucket (LCS 27) is scheduled to begin fabrication in the fall.
LCS is a modular, reconfigurable ship designed to meet validated fleet requirements for surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare and mine countermeasures missions in the littoral region. An interchangeable mission package is embarked on each LCS and provides the primary mission systems in one of these warfare areas. Using an open architecture design, modular weapons, sensor systems and a variety of manned and unmanned vehicles to gain, sustain and exploit littoral maritime supremacy, LCS provides U.S. joint force access to critical theaters.
The LCS class consists of the Freedom variant and Independence variant, designed and built by two industry teams. The Freedom variant team is led by Lockheed Martin (for the odd-numbered hulls, e.g., LCS 1). The Independence variant team is led by Austal USA (for LCS 6 and follow-on even-numbered hulls). Twenty-nine LCSs have been awarded to date, with 15 delivered to the Navy, 11 in various stages of construction and three in pre-production states.
Program Executive Office for Unmanned and Small Combatants is responsible for delivering and sustaining littoral mission capabilities to the fleet. Delivering high-quality warfighting assets while balancing affordability and capability is key to supporting the nation’s maritime strategy.